Read As Good as Dead Online

Authors: Beverly Barton

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense

As Good as Dead (28 page)

BOOK: As Good as Dead
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Jacob parked his truck in one of the designated slots, then rolled down his window and ordered via a voice box.

"A couple of double cheeseburgers, one order of fries, one order of onion rings, a cup of coffee-" He looked at Reve and asked, "Want a chocolate shake?"

She shook her head. "I'll take coffee, too."

"Make that two coffees."

Jacob rolled up the window and turned to Reve. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out how he'd wound up in this situation. He'd been minding his own business, walking up Loden Street after dropping off some things at the cleaners. On his way back to his truck, he'd seen Ms. Sorrell scurrying downstairs from Jazzy's apartment. He'd paused to watch her, wondering why she was in such a hurry. And then he'd seen her face-she was crying.

He'd reacted instinctively and gone over to her to help her on with her coat. That had been his first mistake. His second had been actually giving a damn. To say that he and Reve disliked each other was an understatement. What had he been thinking when he'd asked her to join him for a late lunch? That was just it. He hadn't been thinking. He'd be-en feeling, and when a man let his feelings get in the way of common sense, it always meant trouble. He'd felt sorry for Reve. Had hated to see her hurting. Something inexpli-cable inside him jumped at the chance to be her white knight. And God knew, he was nobody's knight in shining armor.

"So." Jacob looked directly at Reve.

"So," she repeated.

"We're going to have lunch together."

"So we are." Her lips curved into a closed-mouth smile. "Bet you're trying to figure out how this happened, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am," he admitted, then realized she was probably wondering the same thing.

"You, too, huh?"

"I guess we were both just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Want to tell me why you were crying?"

"Not really."

"Everything okay between you and Jazzy?"

She eyed him quizzically, as if asking why he'd care.

"I ask because Jazzy's an old friend," he explained. "She's had a pretty rough year, and I'd hate to see her get hurt again." He sure didn't want this woman thinking he gave a damn about her. Even if he did.

"Jazzy's a very lucky lady to have so many people care about her. Caleb. Her Aunt Sally and Ludie. Genny and Dallas. And you."

He heard the sadness in her voice and noted a hint of tears in her eyes. Hell, she was on the verge of crying again. That wasn't what he'd been expecting. He'd thought that if anything, she'd rant and rave at him about how all the men in town were Jazzy's "friends."

So, what did he say to Reve now? His usual biting sarcasm wasn't appropriate. Right at the moment, she wasn't in top fighting form, and it was no fun to spar with an already wounded partner.

"Word's all over town that the DNA test results prove Jazzy and you are sisters," Jacob said. "You weren't crying about that, were you?"

Suddenly laughing, she blinked several times and released a long, slow breath. "Believe it or not, no. Jazzy and I already felt certain we were sisters. The tests results simply confirmed it."

"You might as well come clean about why you were crying. If you don't, I'll ask Jazzy and-"

"No, please, don't do that. She doesn't know… Just don't say anything to her, okay?"

Before he could respond, their waitress skated over to the truck, a bright red tray in her hand. When Jacob rolled down the window, she handed him a large paper sack, which he gave to Reve, and two Styrofoam cups with lids, which he placed in the truck's cup holders. He removed his wallet from inside his suede jacket and paid the waitress, giving her a generous tip.

"Gee, thanks, Sheriff," the girl said, then skated off.

When he turned to Reve, she offered him a handful of napkins. "She must have thought we're very messy eaters."

"Honey, wait until you bite into your cheeseburger. You'll need plenty of napkins. These things are juicy and loaded with everything."

When she held out his pack of fries and then his cheeseburger, she smiled warmly.

Damn, he wished she wouldn't do that. She looked a little too good to him when she smiled.

After she removed her burger and onion rings from the sack, she seemed to be at a loss as to what to do with them. She held the wrapped cheeseburger in one hand and the paper carton of rings in the other. He reached over and popped open the glove compartment cre-ating a makeshift table for her, and his arm brushed her knees in the process. The minute he accidently touched her, she tensed, and he expected her to light into him. But instead, when he glanced at her, her smile was still in place and her cheeks were slightly flushed.

Well, I'll be damned, he thought. She had reacted to him like a woman and not a stuck-up bitch. Don’t go there, Butler. Do not think of Reve Sorrell the way you think of other women. She's off limits. She is persona non grata. Big time persona non grata.

"Thank you," she said.

Her voice sounded different. All soft and feminine and sweet.

"Eat up," was all he could think of to say.

She nodded, then unwrapped her burger and took a huge bite. He did the same, but couldn't seem to take his eyes off her. She looked a hell of a lot like Jazzy up close, but she wore very little makeup and her eyes were dark brown. Despite their strong physical resemblance, he'd never mistake her for Jazzy. Not in a million years. And not because Jazzy was prettier. No, that wasn't it. It was because of the way he reacted to Reve. He and Jazzy had been friends forever; they'd even tried dating. But there was zero physical chemistry between them. Unfortunately, the exact opposite was true of Reve and him. Every time he was around her, she evoked a strong reaction from him. Usually he wanted to wring her neck.

But right now, that wasn't what he wanted to do to her.

"Is something wrong?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"You aren't eating."

Answer her, you idiot. "I was just thinking about how much you and Jazzy look alike and yet how different you two are."

Reve's smile disappeared. She took another bite out of her cheeseburger, then reached for her coffee.

Now would be a good time to stop talking and eat, Jacob told himself. Finish lunch and then drive her to her cabin or to Jazzy's apartment and say good-bye. You’re way out of your league with this one.

Now why would he think that? It wasn't as if he was interested in dating Reve Sorrell.

Hell, he didn't even like her. But right this minute, he sure did want to kiss her.

They ate in relative silence, their occasional smacks and slurps highly exaggerated in the quiet truck cab. When they finished their meal, Jacob stuffed their garbage into the paper sack and dumped the sack into the garbage container he kept in his truck. When he turned to ask Reve if she was ready to head back across town, he noticed a dab of a mus-tard/ketchup mixture smeared on the side of her mouth. Without thinking, he reached over and wiped off the stain with the side of his thumb. Reve opened her mouth in a silent gasp. His hand lingered. She stared at him, her eyes wide and round.

He balled his hand into a clenched fist. "If you're ready, we'd better go. I need to get back to the office."

He started the motor and backed up without waiting for her reply. When they returned to the street and were heading across town, he spoke to her, but kept his gaze focused straight ahead.

"Do you want me to drop you at your cabin or back at Jazzy's apartment?"

"If it won't be too much trouble, drop me by my cabin."

"Sure. No trouble at all."

Neither of them said a word for the seven and a half minutes it took for him to drive her to her rental cabin. When he pulled up out front, he opened his door and jumped out without making a comment. The sooner he got rid of her, the better. For both of them. He had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his belly that whatever was going on with his libido was happening to hers, too.

He yanked open the passenger door and held out his hand to assist her. She put her hand in his. Heat spread through his fingers and quickly engulfed his entire body. He practically jerked her out of the truck so that she stumbled when her feet hit the ground.

She stood there, only a couple of inches separating their bodies, and looked up at him.

She was a tall woman, taller than Jazzy, but still a good seven inches shorter than he was.

"Thanks for lunch," she said. "I probably gained five pounds from the cheeseburger alone."

He could think of a good way for her to work off the calories. Damn it, Butler, you’ve got to stop this. "I like to see a woman with a healthy appetite."

She smiled again, and every instinct he had told him to run. Run like hell.

"I've got to go," he said.

"Bye." She didn't move. Neither did he.

"Yeah, bye." Get your ass in gear, Butler.

He backed away from her. Slowly. She stood and watched him get in his truck and close the door. When he drove away, he glanced in his rearview mirror. She was still standing there. She lifted her hand and waved. He gunned it and flew off down the street.

 

I can't allow the truth to be revealed. We’ve kept this ugly little secret for thirty years,
and I intend to take it to my grave. If anyone were ever to know what happened-what really happened-my life would be ruined, my legacy worthless. Everything that has ever
meant anything to me would be lost. And all because of that woman! I hated her then and
' hate her now. She was evil, and her corruption destroyed everything and everyone around her.

I didn 't want to get rid of those babies, but I had no choice. I couldn’t allow them to li-ve. But instead of depending on Slim to get rid of them, I should have done it myself. "e
swore to me that they were dead, that there was no way either of them could survive.

But he’d been wrong!

All these years, Id thought I was safe. I believed those twin girls were dead. And all the
while they were alive, one of them growing up right here in Cherokee County.

But can you be certain that Jazzy Talbot and Reve Sorrell are her babies? Just because
they're beautiful, as she was beautiful, and just because they have her red hair, doesn't
mean she was their mother.

Of course it does. They are thirty years old, with birthdays the same month as her twin
girls. And they were both abandoned at birth, each left separately, but both left to die.

Thank God for small-town gossip. Someone had overheard Jazzy and her fiancé talking at Jasmine's, and somebody else had overheard that crazy Sally and her Indian friend talking while they were walking along the sidewalk One person told another and then
they told someone else and so on and so on. If not for busybodies spreading the news, it
might have been days, even weeks, before I found out the truth. And time is of the essence. The sooner I act, the better for me and everyone else involved.

I have to kill both twins before that investigator, Griffin Powell, unearths the truth abo-ut who they are and about who their mother and father were. I will not allow her children
to destroy our lives.

And I know just how I'll do it, how I'll kill them without the least bit of suspicion falling
on me. It was a brilliant' plan. First Jazzy. Tonight. And then Reve.

 

The telephone rang four times before Jazzy grabbed the receiver. Caleb had already go-ne over to Jazzy's Joint for the evening and she was on her way out of her office at Jasmine's, intending to join him.

She glanced at the caller ID. A cell phone number. "Hello. Jazzy Talbot here."

"Jazzy?"

"Yeah." The voice didn't sound familiar.

"I understand you're looking for your real mother."

"Who is this?"

"Someone with information."

"What kind of information?" Suspicious by nature, Jazzy immediately distrusted the caller.

"I know who your real parents are, and I'm willing to share that information with you."

"How much is this going to cost me?"

"I don't want your money."

"Then what do you want?"

"I want you to know the truth."

"Okay, so come on over here to Jasmine's right now and tell me everything you know."

Silence.

"Did you hear me?" Jazzy asked.

"I'd rather we meet somewhere. Neutral ground, so to speak. Not my place or yours."

She'd take Caleb with her, of course, and Reve, too. If this person was on the up and up, her sister should hear the truth directly from the horse's mouth, so to speak. "Okay.

Name the time and the place."

"Now. As soon as you can meet me."

"Where?"

"Are you familiar with the old covered bridge about half a mile from the country club?"

"Why meet in such an out-of-the-way place?"

"Because I do not want to become involved. People know me here in town. I'll give you the information only if you come alone and if you swear you'll never tell anyone who told you about your parents."

Jazzy's gut instincts warned her against meeting this caller. After all, there was a good chance a killer with a thing for redheads was out there somewhere just waiting for a chance to grab her. On the other hand, she seriously doubted the caller was a serial killer. A phony? Someone hoping to exhort money from her? Possibly. A serial killer? Highly unli-kely.

You can take your gun. And you can insist that Reve come with you. After all, if this caller was telling the truth and could ID her parents, then Reve most definitely had a right to hear the truth firsthand, just as she did.

"I'll meet you in fifteen minutes, but I won't come alone. I I'll bring my sister with me."

Was that a chuckle? Jazzy wondered.

"Yes, I'll agree to that. By all means, bring Reve Sorrell with you."

The dial tone buzzed loudly.

Jazzy immediately called Reve's cabin and let the phone ring a dozen times. No answer. She tried Reve's cell number. No response. Jazzy hurried out of her office, down the hallway and out the back door. The back entrances to her two businesses were only fifteen feet apart, so it took her about a I minute to go from one to the other. She entered Jazzy's Joint, bypassed her office and the restrooms and went straight into the main arena.

BOOK: As Good as Dead
6.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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